A common question brought up amongst both experienced shed hunters and newly introduced enthusiasts is “what should I take in my pack?” Every outdoorsman is different and multiple factors must be considered when packing for any mountain adventure. In the case of a typical one-day outing for sheds in moderate to rough terrain during standard March/April weather conditions, this is what my pack would consist of.
Shed hunting requires a ton of physical exertion in order to be successful. Such exertion directly results in the burning of calories and must be countered with a caloric surplus of foods and supplements in order to maintain a peak physical performance. Everyone’s body is different, I personally try to bring 3,000+ calories of snacks and foods a day for a full shed hunt.
If I plan to backpack overnight I will take a personal stove and dehydrated/freeze dried foods, but in the case of a day hike, I prefer to remain lightweight and only pack out wrappers. When packing foods I emphasize large amounts of protein, carbohydrates, BCAAs, and probiotics. A few things I try to avoid are creatine and large amounts of sodium. I won’t go into deep into specifics, but below I have listed a few go-to sources of energy and brands that provide lightweight backpacking foods and supplements perfect for shed hunting.
Pro Bar Meal Bars, Big Sur Bars, Protein Pucks, Picky Bars, and Classic Clif Bars.
Wilderness Athlete Hydrate and Recover Packets and Dark Mountain Kodiak Energy Packets
Honey Stinger Waffles, Phat Fudge Packs, Justin’s PB, and Off Grid Trail Mix
These are all pieces that I carry no matter the occasion. Whether I’m hiking, hunting, looking for sheds or guiding, these are always in my pack.
The goal is to keep this simple and lightweight while still giving yourself and those around you some peace of mind in case of emergency.
- Allergy medication
- Quick-clot bandages
- Anti-bacterial cream
A lot of these items hold multiple purposes but can be categorized as “possibles” because some might be used often while others remain untouched, regardless these are all pieces every shed hunter should carry in case of emergency. Remember that a few basic bush crafting skills go a long way in this department.
- Firestarter (tissue, newspaper, etc.)
- Stormproof matches
- Iodine water purification tablets
- Space blanket
- Extra batteries
- Extra light
These are pieces that people tend to leave out when simply hiking as a recreational activity but when specifically looking for sheds in the hope to accumulate a large load, these items are essential.
- Electrical tape (used to secure sheds together, minimize rattling, and tighten loads)
- Bungee cord(s)
- Small saw*
- Stout bladed knife
- Trekking poles
- Water filter/Steripen
- Water bottle
*If your state allows the removal of natural deadheads from the woods a small compact saw is a convenient piece of gear.
This arguably falls into the necessities category but because there is such a large debate over this topic amongst the hunting community I chose to give it special attention. Personally, I believe both binoculars and a spotting scope are essential when looking for sheds. A smaller set of binoculars combined with a spotter is great for long hikes covering ground because smaller optics can be more effective for quick scanning on the move. However, I prefer to run a larger set of binoculars mounted on a tripod and a spotting scope for reassurance and closer examination.
Lower power binos (8x42/10x42/10x50) are good options for the shed hunter that stays mobile.
Higher powered options (12x50/12x56/15x56) are better options for stationary glassing off a tripod. Contrary to hunting animals on the hoof, a shed is a significantly smaller inanimate object that doesn’t move and often blends into the terrain. High power quality glass typically results in greater success.
Small spotters (50-80mm) are great for long-range scanning and the lightweight compact design is easily packable. Large spotters (80-95mm) are a hassle to pack around but when you need to spot the difference between a stick and an antler across a canyon, you’ll be thankful you brought it.
The smaller the better in the tripod department. Most of your glassing will be done from a seated position so an extended multi-telescoping tripod is just deadweight. Carbon fiber is a great option for weight conscious hikers but aluminum bodies are typically more durable.
Layering is the name of the game when shed hunting because of the finicky spring weather you can expect in the mountains. A quality base layer that wicks moisture combined with an insulating mid-layer and a water/wind resistant outer shell is a great start. Aside from the basics I’ve listed a few outerwear options that I find useful while wandering the hillsides.
A synthetic down jacket is a great option for a high-intensity shed hunt that will require a lot of hiking and climbing because it stays warm while damp or wet. A high-fill goose down jacket will be a better suit for a stationary shed hunter that prefers to glass while exposed to the coldest elements.
It’s common to be crossing creeks and post-holing through snow drifts while traversing the woods in early spring. These are a game changer for keeping your feet dry.
Merino Neck Gaiter
The neck gaiter is clearly a different kind of gaiter but also great to have. This keeps the cold wind from biting at your neck and is a great face protector in heavy winds.
Great for keeping hands warm on a cold set of optics for long periods of time. I combine these with a lightweight breathable set of liners to wear while on the move.
No combination of gear will make shed hunting easy, like most outdoor activities it takes a fair amount of hard work, patience, and luck to achieve success. If you put in the miles and spend time behind glass you will find antlers. But more importantly, shed season offers a great chance to learn animal behavior, spend time with like-minded individuals, and further develop your outdoor skills. So hit the hillsides hard this spring. Good luck!
About the Author:
Riley lives in the mountains of Northeast Oregon where he is averaging 450 lbs of sheds per season. In the fall, he guides hunters outside of Sheridan, WY on mule deer, antelope, and elk hunts of various types.